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Demetrio Cereijo
12-18-2013, 09:17 AM
But when the endstate is "becoming a better person" (which IMO is both undefinable and a copout for lacking martial skill), how one measure that?

Budd
12-18-2013, 10:26 AM
Haven't we long disproved the notion that martial arts somehow makes you a better person? If anyone's making that claim, I'd expect some verifiable metrics that go along with it.

Demetrio Cereijo
12-18-2013, 11:05 AM
Haven't we long disproved the notion that martial arts somehow makes you a better person?
I didn't get the memo.

Kevin Leavitt
12-18-2013, 11:17 AM
But when the endstate is "becoming a better person" (which IMO is both undefinable and a copout for lacking martial skill), how one measure that?

I think this is a big part of the issue. It is mostly subjective. Maybe it would be possible to take a population and measure that some how they were less likely to fight, they were arrested less often, and were charged with spouse abuse less often. I think though that you cannot draw that correlation or inference as you could also argue that the individuals self selected themselves out of the pool and would have reached that anyway.

Maybe some of our psychologist friends can shed some light that it can help alleviate stress, I think we've determined that exercise is good for you in general...but that too, doesn't uniquely ID that martial practices are special in this way.

So, i suppose you'd have to do a completely subjective survey of practitioners and ask them if they thought their training made the a better person. Again, though does this really count?

I personally don't care. to eaches own. If they like what they are doing then let them do it!

If you don't like what they are doing, then don't do it. I think it is as simple as that.

Budd
12-18-2013, 11:33 AM
I didn't get the memo.

Get educated, sheesh. Nobody's going to go out of their way to tell you common sense things.

chillzATL
12-18-2013, 01:30 PM
Haven't we long disproved the notion that martial arts somehow makes you a better person? If anyone's making that claim, I'd expect some verifiable metrics that go along with it.

no, we haven't. If it makes someone feel better, live better, whatever. That's the only metric they need.

chillzATL
12-18-2013, 01:37 PM
But when the endstate is "becoming a better person" (which IMO is both undefinable and a copout for lacking martial skill), how one measure that?

Do they enjoy what they do? Does that make them happy? does that happiness enrich their life in some way? If so, then it's pretty well defined, for them.

Budd
12-18-2013, 02:42 PM
no, we haven't. If it makes someone feel better, live better, whatever. That's the only metric they need.

The data guy in me is going to then challenge you to demonstrate that someone feeling, living, whatever better somehow makes them a better person, if that's the point you're making. If you're saying let them do what they enjoy, I won't argue, but anyone making stupid claims (like martial arts makes you a better person, versus martial arts makes you a better YOU) that can't be verified doesn't do much for one's credibility.

Demetrio Cereijo
12-18-2013, 03:25 PM
Do they enjoy what they do? Does that make them happy? does that happiness enrich their life in some way? If so, then it's pretty well defined, for them.
Do you equate 'being happier' with 'being a better person'?

chillzATL
12-18-2013, 03:35 PM
The data guy in me is going to then challenge you to demonstrate that someone feeling, living, whatever better somehow makes them a better person, if that's the point you're making. If you're saying let them do what they enjoy, I won't argue, but anyone making stupid claims (like martial arts makes you a better person, versus martial arts makes you a better YOU) that can't be verified doesn't do much for one's credibility.

How do you demonstrate it either way? If doing things that make us happy in life doesn't make us better people, what does? I'm pretty sure that whomever first said "marital arts makes us better people" didn't simply mean the act of punching, kicking and throwing makes us better people. It's finding something that we enjoy doing, maybe even passionately and hopefully with people we also enjoy, that brings us happiness and ultimately makes us better people. While martial arts may not be any better at that than any other activity, it certainly isn't any worse either.

chillzATL
12-18-2013, 03:38 PM
Do you equate 'being happier' with 'being a better person'?

short of someone who draws happiness from the misery of others, how do you not equate those things?

Kevin Leavitt
12-18-2013, 04:04 PM
I think we'd have to spend some time defining happiness.

I think it helps make me a better person in a number of ways. one, it alleviates stress for me. I feel that my training over the years has been a great outlet for me to deal with my PTSD issues.

It increased my legitimacy as an instructor in the Army. My practice has introduced me to some amazing people.

I recently went to Senegal and met some awesome and motivated folks there that want to learn ne waza/BJJ. I think making new friends has been a big part of my happiness.

It keeps me in shape for the most part when I am not doing stupid stuff and getting hurt like I do all the time these days.

Budo is such a part of my life and it has been life changing for me in ways I could never have imagined.

When I roll with someone and I am in the zone and I am just doing it without regard to past or future...I think that is a pretty good example of happiness.

So, overall yes.

Now if you want to talk about individual practices, techniques, chanting, feeling the heart, punching, kicking etc...well not in the individual acts.

Peter Goldsbury
12-18-2013, 04:46 PM
I think we'd have to spend some time defining happiness.

I think it helps make me a better person in a number of ways. one, it alleviates stress for me. I feel that my training over the years has been a great outlet for me to deal with my PTSD issues.

It increased my legitimacy as an instructor in the Army. My practice has introduced me to some amazing people.

I recently went to Senegal and met some awesome and motivated folks there that want to learn ne waza/BJJ. I think making new friends has been a big part of my happiness.

It keeps me in shape for the most part when I am not doing stupid stuff and getting hurt like I do all the time these days.

Budo is such a part of my life and it has been life changing for me in ways I could never have imagined.

When I roll with someone and I am in the zone and I am just doing it without regard to past or future...I think that is a pretty good example of happiness.

So, overall yes.

Now if you want to talk about individual practices, techniques, chanting, feeling the heart, punching, kicking etc...well not in the individual acts.

Hello Kevin,

I think your comments could apply to any art or sport, though perhaps in different ways. Recently, I gave a paper in St Petersburg and the organizers (mainly from sports) suggested the title of 'Values of Aikido as a Demonstration Sport'. So I discussed the values of sports. There is the same fuzziness of definition with 'sport' as well as with 'art', similarly with what counts as being a 'better person'. I have argued elsewhere that Morihei Ueshiba conceived what he was doing as primarily a 'religious' activity, so this adds another fuzzy concept to the mix.

The question of the value of an art has been around for a very long time and some, like Aristotle, have suggested that practicing the art is its own justification. It does not intrinsically add any further value. It might do, but this is because you already have a value system in which you include practicing the art.

Best wishes,

Budd
12-18-2013, 04:52 PM
How do you demonstrate it either way? If doing things that make us happy in life doesn't make us better people, what does? I'm pretty sure that whomever first said "marital arts makes us better people" didn't simply mean the act of punching, kicking and throwing makes us better people. It's finding something that we enjoy doing, maybe even passionately and hopefully with people we also enjoy, that brings us happiness and ultimately makes us better people. While martial arts may not be any better at that than any other activity, it certainly isn't any worse either.

Great, so you're stating a belief rather than demonstrating anything.

Budd
12-18-2013, 04:55 PM
Aristotle works for me - there's value in the activity for a person. But that doesn't equate to martial arts making one a better person.

Brian Gillaspie
12-18-2013, 05:07 PM
For many years I think martial arts made me a better person...at least based on my own definition of what being better means. I was less stressed, usually in a better mood, and in better physical shape.

Then at some point I got burned out and had to force my self to go to class. During that time I don't think it made me any better, and maybe made me worse, because I really didn't want to be there even thought I thought I had to be there.

Now I'm back in the I love going to class stage so things seem better again.

So I believe martial arts can make your own life better but I don't know if it is possible to quantify it and I don't really think you can claim it will make someone else a better person. Also, if martial arts can make your life better because you are doing something you enjoy then so can knitting, basketball, reading, painting or many other activities. I love martial arts but I honestly don't think they have some special power to make us all great people.

Demetrio Cereijo
12-18-2013, 05:39 PM
short of someone who draws happiness from the misery of others, how do you not equate those things?

I consider happiness as a by-product of becoming a better person, a more virtuous (i.e. in an Aristotelian sense) person, but not as the same thing.

sakumeikan
12-18-2013, 06:09 PM
I consider happiness as a by-product of becoming a better person, a more virtuous (i.e. in an Aristotelian sense) person, but not as the same thing.
Dear Kevin, Demetrio,
Do not ask me how to define 'HAPPINESS".Why not look for a video of Ken Dodd, the man with the chucklestick and the chief of the Diddy Men. He will tell you exactly what HAPPINESS is.
Cheers, Joe.

chillzATL
12-18-2013, 06:14 PM
Great, so you're stating a belief rather than demonstrating anything.

as I said, how do you demonstrate it from either side? You can't demonstrate your opinion any more than I can demonstrate mine, though I at least gave a pretty solid example of how martial arts, or any activity, can make someone a better person.

chillzATL
12-18-2013, 06:17 PM
I consider happiness as a by-product of becoming a better person, a more virtuous (i.e. in an Aristotelian sense) person, but not as the same thing.

fair enough, but you can't be happy, or more happy, until you somehow become a better person, more virtuous person?

chillzATL
12-18-2013, 06:19 PM
Aristotle works for me - there's value in the activity for a person. But that doesn't equate to martial arts making one a better person.

if that activity brings them happiness, lowers their stress, insert any positive benefit here, how does it not contribute to making them a better person?

Demetrio Cereijo
12-18-2013, 06:37 PM
fair enough, but you can't be happy, or more happy, until you somehow become a better person, more virtuous person?

Sure there are people who feel they're happy while lacking virtue.

Keith Larman
12-18-2013, 06:37 PM
Well, on some level of course most any activity can be personally fulfilling and beneficial. In that respect most anything can make you a "better" person. That said, there is a general conception among *some* that martial arts are also about improving the person in many ways. Heck, as Dr. Goldsbury has already pointed out O-Sensei approached it much like a religion, which is obviously quite an extreme compared to, say, playing tennis for fun and fulfillment. Not the same thing on any level.

And of course there is all the stuff about the so-called Warrior Sage, Warrior Monk, or the enlightened guru that permeates many of these arts. Sometimes it's downplayed or not there at all. But at other times you cannot deny that there is a strong undercurrent of influence. Heck, Ueshiba's doka are great examples of exactly the sort of "enlightened" proclamations going clearly in to philosophical and religious concepts. And we've had entire discussions here of things like "katsujinken" that often go much further than just describing different ideas of proper sword strategy in to areas of moral worth and ethical action.

So all that said I think these questions are asked and answered quite differently depending on the person, style and context involved. And there is no doubt that what I may get out of my practice is most likely quite different from what everyone else gets out of it in the larger scheme of things.

But once we start drilling down and being specific about what exactly we're talking about, be it one-on-one fighting efficiency, martial effectiveness of sword use, grappling, atemi, etc. there are objective criterion by which to judge the value of those things. I.e., it works or it doesn't to use a very simplified description. Of course things get hazy when we get more nuanced, but on *those* issues there can be objective statements made that are fairly straightforward in evaluation. So a guy doing no-touch ki throws that don't work on anyone other than his or her students is probably not demonstrating something that will work on anyone *other* than those students. That said it might be fun, enlightening, enriching practice for those involved working on increasing their sensitivity and awareness (or whatever --- I'm reaching here since it's not really my bag either).

Anyway, saying studying martial arts does not guarantee becoming a good person is an obvious statement to me. That said, sometimes it is taught with that as an express, specific and important goal for that particular group. Whether it works or not... Well... Let's reference scandals in the Catholic Church, terrorist activities carried out by many religious groups, terrorist activities done by "patriots" who believe they're being oppressed, etc. That's a really big, muddy area...

Me, I just train to try to get better at the body skills I find so interesting in Aikido. And what those skills imply about body mechanics, about psychology, etc.

Carry on...

Kevin Leavitt
12-19-2013, 01:09 AM
Hello Kevin,

I think your comments could apply to any art or sport, though perhaps in different ways. Recently, I gave a paper in St Petersburg and the organizers (mainly from sports) suggested the title of 'Values of Aikido as a Demonstration Sport'. So I discussed the values of sports. There is the same fuzziness of definition with 'sport' as well as with 'art', similarly with what counts as being a 'better person'. I have argued elsewhere that Morihei Ueshiba conceived what he was doing as primarily a 'religious' activity, so this adds another fuzzy concept to the mix.

The question of the value of an art has been around for a very long time and some, like Aristotle, have suggested that practicing the art is its own justification. It does not intrinsically add any further value. It might do, but this is because you already have a value system in which you include practicing the art.

Best wishes,

I agree. I think there is a big difference between doing stuff that makes you happy and receiving happiness from the stuff. I HUGE difference. For example, I have no expectations that my happiness will be derived from a particular kata. I love to ski and mountain climb as well. I LOVE it. I am no happier than "in the moment" of a great climb. However, the event, place, or time does not in itself produce happiness.

I just finished listening to a bunch of lectures by Joseph Campbell who makes a very solid case for the need of myth, rituals, and practices and why they are important for people and society. So, yes, these things do have a place if kept in the right perspective and we do not place a level of expectation on the practices that is perverse.

Kevin Leavitt
12-19-2013, 01:10 AM
Sure there are people who feel they're happy while lacking virtue.

I've met some of the most passive aggressive people in the aikido dojo! just saying!

Kevin Leavitt
12-19-2013, 01:31 AM
Keith wrote:

But once we start drilling down and being specific about what exactly we're talking about, be it one-on-one fighting efficiency, martial effectiveness of sword use, grappling, atemi, etc. there are objective criterion by which to judge the value of those things. I.e., it works or it doesn't to use a very simplified description. Of course things get hazy when we get more nuanced, but on *those* issues there can be objective statements made that are fairly straightforward in evaluation. So a guy doing no-touch ki throws that don't work on anyone other than his or her students is probably not demonstrating something that will work on anyone *other* than those students. That said it might be fun, enlightening, enriching practice for those involved working on increasing their sensitivity and awareness (or whatever --- I'm reaching here since it's not really my bag either).

At what point does it cross the line into delusion or unreasonableness? At what point does it become a bastardization of reality so much so that it produces more sickness than health?

I think alot of it is "caveat emptor" to be honest and as long as it floats your boat, then do your own thing.

I am not on a crusade to save the masses personally, could careless really. But, I also love what I have done and do, like most of us here, and simply want to share if people are open to sharing.

I think all of us come with a set of filters that have been established through culture, experiences, genetics, and criteria and an analysis framework that shape who we are.

I think what budo in general can do for us. I think what it is really designed to do is to help us expand our understanding (wisdom) of the events and world around us....to help us create a "more accurate" understanding (whatever "more accurate" means), of the world around us, affecting our responses or actions.

we can't change our culture, heritage, genetics....but we can change how we measure and analysis, and our experiences can affect that as well.

So, I think it is most important to NOT suspend belief, to give yourself over to a system, process, guru etc. But to think hard about what it is that we are doing and how you measure it and how that experience will be folded into you.

We must try and become as objective and open as possible and be in the moment of learning and make it as pure as possible.

We cannot suspend belief or talk about 20 years from now and look at someone else without holding him accountable to the present situation. We must control the criteria which we measure success and not allow them to set the conditions of success in our presence.

When we do this, we give up any opportunity, IMO, to be happy. We give up any opportunity to become enlightened. We externalize our experience (most ironically while we are trying to learn a INTERNAL process!).

However, if we think criticially and seek to understand the true nature of what we are dong. That is martially...how does a fight really work. What happens when someone is angry? Really how is aggression and violence enacted for real. How do I respond spontaneously. How does my culture, genetics, and heritage affect my perspective of this violence? How are my filters deceiving me? What methods/measures/criteria can I adapt to receive new input and not become bamboozled by my own filters, hopes, desires, "happiness"?

I think if we concentrate on those things...that budo can be a wonderful practice and we can begin to have authentic and productive dialogue between the people that think this way!

philipsmith
12-19-2013, 08:14 AM
There is some evidence that the practise of martial arts helps to modify anti-social behavour, increase self-sesteem and so on in these articles:

Laura Wilkinson, The Martial Arts: A Mental Health Intervention?; Journal of the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, Vol. No. 6: 202-206

Trulson, M. E. (1986). Martial arts training: A novel ‘‘cure’’ for juvenile delinquency. Human Relations, 39, 1131–1140.

Stuart W. Twemlow, Bridget K. Biggs, Timothy D. Nelson, Eric M. Vernberg, Peter Fonagy, Stephen W. Twemlow; Effects of participation in a martial arts–based antibullying program in elementary schools Psychology in the Schools
Volume 45, Issue 10, pages 947–959, December 2008*

BUT you can show the same benefits for most sports so maybe we're not that special after all.

phitruong
12-19-2013, 08:45 AM
Yoda: Help you I can. Yes, mmmm.

Luke: I don't think so. I'm looking for a great warrior.

Yoda: Ohhh. Great warrior.
[laughs and shakes his head]

Yoda: Wars not make one great.

same goes for martial arts, doesn't make one better. it just displays what you have in you.

phitruong
12-19-2013, 09:09 AM
I've met some of the most passive aggressive people in the aikido dojo! just saying!

me too! what is the odd of that?!!

lbb
12-19-2013, 10:03 AM
It seems to me that we've got a number of challenges to poorly-framed strawman questions. There are a lot of assertions made about martial arts practice developing some thing(s) other than martial skills. You've got to get specific about the assertion before you can offer a valid challenge to it, and I think this conversation has largely failed to do that.

I'm going to leave aside the discussion about what happiness is, and what a "better person" is, and whether a happy person is a better person...you can have that. Instead, I'd like to break the generalized "self-improvement" wah about martial arts into two different assertions (with "self-improvement" being my stand-in term for All That Stuff):

1. Martial arts training uniquely provides an environment for self-improvement (i.e., there's nothing as good).
2. Martial arts reliably results in self-improvement (i.e., if you train in martial arts, you'll self-improve, whatever that means).

I disagree with both of these, with a big "...and yet". I don't think that martial arts uniquely provides an environment for self-improvement. Demonstrably, people improve their physical well-being, their mental acuity, their social engagement and their emotional health through many pastimes and practices, from something as simple as participating in a square dance group to joining a spiritual community. Furthermore, I don't think there's any single "self-improvement" goal for which there isn't a better and more direct alternative to martial arts. Want to improve your physical conditioning? A focused and dedicated exercise program works better than martial arts training. Want to deal with anger or fear or other destructive emotions? Therapy or some spiritual practices are the way to go.

I don't think that martial arts reliably provides an environment for self-improvement. How could it, when most people don't even stay long enough to develop competence at the simplest physical technique, let alone make some kind of mental/emotional/spiritual breakthrough? And don't we all know people who have been training for years and yet who still seem "stuck" as people?

And yet, I do believe that budo training provides a very rich environment in which "self-improvement" can take place. It won't happen for everybody, because not everybody is ready for change. But for those who are, budo training has many aspects and experiences that serve as powerful catalysts. The opportunity is there. And it's grounded in the physical, which I think is a helpful and accessible way for us humans to learn. Back in my coaching training days, they told us to "activate prior knowledge": find something that the student already knew, and relate to that. We humans begin as physical beings, and I think we always retain our ability to relate to the physical, even if other ways of understanding elude us.

So, that's my take on it. No, training in martial arts doesn't "lead to self-improvement". No, training in martial arts isn't the only (or even the best way) to "self-improvement". No guarantees that it will happen to you. But budo training is rich in opportunities for "self-improvement". If you train for any length of time and fail to pick up on any of these opportunities, either you took advantage of other opportunities elsewhere...or it just isn't your time to change that way.

Kevin Leavitt
12-19-2013, 10:22 AM
Great comments Mary. I agree. The only thing I may not agree on is that I do believe that while Martial arts in not therapy...it can be theraputeic, restorative, or even a spiritual center for many. I think it depends on how you connect.

However, simply because you wear certain clothing, sit a certain way, or do particular practices, makes you no more able to transcend whatever you are transcending than going to church and "participating" in Sunday service does.

The problem becomes, for me, when we take the "honesty" of the practice, which I agree, is all in the physicality of the art, and try to turn it into something other than what it is.

Many have attempted to turn Martial practices or budo into a religion, a spiritual practice, they look for secrets to unlock particular doors that they feel are locked. They become snake oil salesman intentionally or unintentionally.

I have never understood what people mean when they speak of budo or martial practices from the context of external and internal. Somehow the connotation is that internal is spiritual, "better", using energy in some metaphysical way. They take the physical that you describe and turn it into something else. They seem to put all the physical into the "external" category as being bad, as being about fighting, clashing, battle of opposing wills, domination. They take a simple, physical thing and apply a warped sense of duality to it!

Not that I disagree with what you wrote at all, as I wholeheartedly agree. You always of a way of cutting through all the crap and getting to the core of issues and I appreciate that!

jonreading
12-19-2013, 02:30 PM
It seems to me that we've got a number of challenges to poorly-framed strawman questions. There are a lot of assertions made about martial arts practice developing some thing(s) other than martial skills. You've got to get specific about the assertion before you can offer a valid challenge to it, and I think this conversation has largely failed to do that.

I'm going to leave aside the discussion about what happiness is, and what a "better person" is, and whether a happy person is a better person...you can have that. Instead, I'd like to break the generalized "self-improvement" wah about martial arts into two different assertions (with "self-improvement" being my stand-in term for All That Stuff):

1. Martial arts training uniquely provides an environment for self-improvement (i.e., there's nothing as good).
2. Martial arts reliably results in self-improvement (i.e., if you train in martial arts, you'll self-improve, whatever that means).

I disagree with both of these, with a big "...and yet". I don't think that martial arts uniquely provides an environment for self-improvement. Demonstrably, people improve their physical well-being, their mental acuity, their social engagement and their emotional health through many pastimes and practices, from something as simple as participating in a square dance group to joining a spiritual community. Furthermore, I don't think there's any single "self-improvement" goal for which there isn't a better and more direct alternative to martial arts. Want to improve your physical conditioning? A focused and dedicated exercise program works better than martial arts training. Want to deal with anger or fear or other destructive emotions? Therapy or some spiritual practices are the way to go.

I don't think that martial arts reliably provides an environment for self-improvement. How could it, when most people don't even stay long enough to develop competence at the simplest physical technique, let alone make some kind of mental/emotional/spiritual breakthrough? And don't we all know people who have been training for years and yet who still seem "stuck" as people?

And yet, I do believe that budo training provides a very rich environment in which "self-improvement" can take place. It won't happen for everybody, because not everybody is ready for change. But for those who are, budo training has many aspects and experiences that serve as powerful catalysts. The opportunity is there. And it's grounded in the physical, which I think is a helpful and accessible way for us humans to learn. Back in my coaching training days, they told us to "activate prior knowledge": find something that the student already knew, and relate to that. We humans begin as physical beings, and I think we always retain our ability to relate to the physical, even if other ways of understanding elude us.

So, that's my take on it. No, training in martial arts doesn't "lead to self-improvement". No, training in martial arts isn't the only (or even the best way) to "self-improvement". No guarantees that it will happen to you. But budo training is rich in opportunities for "self-improvement". If you train for any length of time and fail to pick up on any of these opportunities, either you took advantage of other opportunities elsewhere...or it just isn't your time to change that way.

This is a good post. I think getting into the specifics of what we are talking about is a good approach.

I think martial arts opens doors to self-improvement that other activities do not. There is overlap, for sure, with other activities that open their own sets of doors. I am an advocate of presenting those doors as a means of soliciting commitment because I believe they have merit for individuals who are interested in using those resources to improve their lives. Fancy talk, but I still think we are correlated, not causal, in our relationship. You still gotta put in the time...

OwlMatt
12-21-2013, 07:29 PM
I'm a big fan of Rob Redmond, who talks about this in one of his blogs:
http://www.24fightingchickens.com/2005/09/18/self-discipline-self-denial-self-confidence/

A snippet:
I am not a big believer in the idea that karate makes us into better people by increasing our levels of morality or maturity. Nor do I think that karate training is responsible for changes in personality. It has not been my experience that karate training is useful for improving character. There are many reasons that I do not believe this to be the case, such as the fact that karate schools generally do not define character to begin with, have no specific exercises for character development, do not have any way to measure character objectively, and do not have any way to check for changes in character. Character is not assessed, it is not tested for, and it is not trained with specific exercises.

Rather, a passive approach of just doing karate while hoping that the training has positive side-effects on personality, morality, or maturity through osmosis seems to be the way that karate instructors merely hope to train character. I find this approach to be to be less potentially effective than merely reading a not-so-good self-help book. But I also do not believe it is the job of a karate instructor to try to make us better people. Rather, their job is to teach the skill of doing karate well.

Redmond goes on to assert that, while martial arts training might improve our self-discipline and self-confidence, neither self-discipline nor self-confidence are inherently moral things, and they can be used for good or for evil.

Belt_Up
12-22-2013, 08:28 AM
Without a way to measure 'being a better person' we cannot tell what effect MA has, if any.

"I believe/My experience is/I think/I feel" - the plural of anecdote is not data.

I think MA makes you 200% a better person with every session. Meaningless without a yardstick. All we have is opinion.

Eric in Denver
12-22-2013, 09:44 AM
But when the endstate is "becoming a better person" (which IMO is both undefinable and a copout for lacking martial skill), how one measure that?

If "better" in undefinable, then there is no way to measure it, so the question doesn't really make any sense. You can't measure something that you refuse to define.

Moving beyond that, though, coming from the perspective of a budding researcher in the social sciences, here are some different components I think about for measuring this.

1) First you have to define what you mean by "a better person" in a way that could be measured. Do you mean that they feel they have more self-control? Behave more ethically? Able to remain more calm when the feel stressed? Of course, you may mean all of these things, so you might end up having to do many, many research projects if you want to capture many, many different characteristics. Another issue would be determining whether you want to focus on self-perceived "betterness" or some outward expression (change in actual behaviors) of "betterness."

2) Once you know what you want to measure, then you find some kind of scale that measures it, or build your own scale. There are already tons of personality scales, scales of perceived self-efficacy, scales of mental affect, systems for rating both self-behaviors and behaviors of others, and tons of other stuff, that have years of research behind them.

Or if you want to, you can design your own scale and do some rigorous testing to make sure it is coming close to measuring what you want it to measure.

3) You need a research design. Probably something pre and post. Your participants (hopefully you could start with a few hundred) take your scale, get a score, then take aikido lessons for a year, they take the scale again. If you have enough, you might divide them into two or three groups, each pursuing a different activity so you can compare them. Perhaps Group A does aikido, Group B does MMA, Group C does dance. It would also be great ot have a control group that does nothing.

4) Compare the pre and post results to see if there was any change, then compare the amount of change between groups to see if any activity stood out as better than any of the others.

So, in the end, if one defines "better" as an undefinable characteristic, then yes, attempting to measure it is silly. If there is a way to point to more specific pieces of "betterness", then it becomes easy to think about measuring change.

Demetrio Cereijo
12-22-2013, 11:02 AM
Hi Eric,

Grat post.

I'd like to point that the -mostly rethorical- question posed in op is a post moved from another thread. There is some context missing.

Budd
12-22-2013, 02:51 PM
A lot of good words to articulate that belief systems are belief systems and quantifiable data/fact based measurements require something a bit more independently verifiable.

Eric in Denver
12-23-2013, 02:43 PM
Hi Eric,

Grat post.

I'd like to point that the -mostly rethorical- question posed in op is a post moved from another thread. There is some context missing.

Thanks, I thought that was likely case.

Eric in Denver
12-23-2013, 02:45 PM
A lot of good words to articulate that belief systems are belief systems and quantifiable data/fact based measurements require something a bit more independently verifiable.

Budd, thank you for being much more succinct than I was. Perhaps Jun could just replace my post with yours and save everyone the extra reading. :D

Lorien Lowe
12-30-2013, 05:43 AM
Facing stress and adversity tends to, at a minimum, show how one faces stress and adversity. Practicing martial arts is one way a modern person with a relatively comfortable life can deliberately put themselves in a stressful situation and observe how they, themselves, react - and then, if they wish, work on controlling that reaction.

philipsmith
12-30-2013, 08:23 AM
Without a way to measure 'being a better person' we cannot tell what effect MA has, if any.

"I believe/My experience is/I think/I feel" - the plural of anecdote is not data.

I think MA makes you 200% a better person with every session. Meaningless without a yardstick. All we have is opinion.

In the studies I mentioned earlier they looked at easily measurable data such as school attendance, decrease in "bad" behaviours and/or disciplinary measures and exam results.

I guess it depends - as others have said- if that's how you define better!

john2054
01-13-2014, 01:08 PM
Aiki Bu-do has helped me a lot since i first started it. Not only in terms of making it in and out of hospital (last admission 2 years = 2009-12) but also with my personal life. My philosophy and religion has also helped us with this (Christianity/buddhism). This has all helped me with passing my first two years part time at uni (1st academic year) with a 2.2, and equally this has fed back into the rest of my life. Also my wife shows me humility whereas my step-daughter shows me joy. This is surely what it's all about?

Tom Verhoeven
01-15-2014, 05:13 PM
Could not agree with you more !

Tom

RHKarst
01-29-2014, 01:53 AM
I can not answer for all Martial Arts, although I do believe that seeing what you may be able to do to an attacker should help make you less afraid and thus better.

As for Aikido . . . It is my understanding and experience that if you take the time to truly understand and accept it's teachings you learn not to fight, but to flow like water, in all aspects of your life. In my Humble opinion . . . better. :-)

kewms
04-15-2014, 08:29 PM
There are two specific areas that martial arts train that can contribute to making someone a "better" person.

The first is awareness. If you are more able to differentiate between real and imagined threats, then you are less likely to act as a "threatened" person might.

The second is humility. There is always someone better. A good fraction of the time, you will "lose." If you "win," were you good, or just lucky?

Now, certainly there are aikido practitioners who demonstrate neither of these traits. But I would consider that to indicate a void in their training, rather than an indictment of the art itself.

Are the martial arts unique in this regard? I think the question is pointless. People who put a lot of effort into becoming better people (for whatever definition of the term they choose) generally succeed. People who don't, don't. So the best practice is the one that can hold you interest for years or decades.

Katherine

SteveTrinkle
04-16-2014, 02:14 PM
since Istarted studying aikido, Ihaven't been back to jail once and I aint killed no one recently

hughrbeyer
04-16-2014, 11:01 PM
Hey! Me neither! This Aikido stuff works!

Michael Douglas
04-17-2014, 01:29 PM
The first is awareness. If you are more able to differentiate between real and imagined threats, then you are less likely to act as a "threatened" person might.
Can you explain how your dojo experience involves this? Do you have some system to help you judge real / imagined threats?

(Your second point I wholeheartedly support)

Adam Huss
04-17-2014, 05:18 PM
I would say training makes someone a better person - not so much a particular art, or style. Certainly a particular art may emphasize training's applicability 'off the mat.' Many just play lip service to those ideals, and fewer still really even spend time discussing them.

kewms
04-17-2014, 06:20 PM
Can you explain how your dojo experience involves this? Do you have some system to help you judge real / imagined threats?

(Your second point I wholeheartedly support)

I think any martial arts practice is going to show you how the energy varies between real threats, feints, and non-threats. Consider the differences between how beginners attack, how experienced aikidoka attack, and how people from other arts attack. Consider the differences in body language between someone who is about to attack and someone who is just standing around.

Any martial arts practice is also going to teach you about timing and distance, which I consider part of threat awareness. Recognizing a potential threat before it becomes actual is the key to diffusing it. If I notice that the guy at the other end of the block is a dangerous character, I have a lot more options than if I don't even notice his existence until he's reaching for me. And even when he starts moving, I still have more options than I will if he's able to get his hands on me.

I think free technique and randori are especially effective for teaching these things, but the elements are there in basic kihon waza, too.

Do I have a "system?" Not really. If I had to, I guess I could articulate exactly how threats and non-threats differ, but in the moment it's very much a matter of subconscious awareness and "feel."

Also, since we're talking about "becoming a better person," not self-defense as such, it's important to remember that most situations that most people face in daily life do not involve overt threats of physical violence. It's blustering bosses and co-workers, obnoxious drivers and pushy people in line. I think martial arts training -- since it *does* involve some level of actual physical violence -- makes it a lot easier to see bluster for what it is, and either ignore it or stand up for one's own interests without being intimidated. (Our own Peter Boylan has some good thoughts on this angle here: http://budobum.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-dojo-as-world-learning-to-deal-with.html)

Katherine

kewms
04-17-2014, 06:26 PM
I can not answer for all Martial Arts, although I do believe that seeing what you may be able to do to an attacker should help make you less afraid and thus better.

I also think that being aware of your own power forces you to consider the circumstances in which it would, and would not, be appropriate to use it. That whole "life-giving sword" idea.

Katherine